Letter From The Editor: Adventure


The journey into the moment

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Letter From The Editor: Adventure | A Practical Wedding

Dear APW,

This June at Alt Summit, I heard my (kick-ass) friend Susan speak about entrepreneurship. Ever since then, one of her lines has been bopping around in my head, “Figure out the life you want, and run hard at it.” The phrase stuck with me because it’s how I’ve always built my life. As someone who spent a good chunk of her life trying to get past certain realities—trying to get out of an impoverished city, or get a scholarship to a good college, or find a creative job that paid the bills—the practice of making lists has been powerful. If you know that you don’t want what you see around you every day, you have to be able to imagine something different. You have to be willing to dream something audacious.

So I dreamed a life that seemed impossible. I ran for it, I found it, and some days it still seems too amazing to be true. To the outside eye, it might seem that running a business and writing a book are the impossible-seeming achievements. But my impossible-seeming moments are littler. The easy relationship I have with my kid. Not struggling to pay the bills every month. Figuring out how to be a mom and still not fit into a very particular societally-expected mold. Those small-seeming things feel like huge achievements to me. My dreams, it turns out, were not so crazy. Which is, I suppose, the lesson. Things that seem audacious when you dream them, usually are not as wild as you think.

But lately, the “where next” question has been haunting me. While I really love renting, I’ve always dreamed of buying a fixer-upper—and some days feel cheated that, when that goal finally should seem attainable, the market in the Bay Area has spun so out of control that the smart money isn’t on buying a house to fix up. But the real truth is, I can’t even imagine what kind of house I would buy. Which encapsulates the problem. I can’t figure out what my new dreams should be in many aspects of my life.  I know where I want to go next (more or less), but I don’t seem in any hurry to get there, and the edges of those dreams are still very blurry.

All this is possibly just as well. As someone who dreamed a dream, wrote a list, and then pushed like hell to get out, I didn’t get to stop very often. If I wanted better, I needed to do better. And better was a list with fifty things on it, and it needed to be done now. And when you’re thinking about it that way, it’s no wonder that my twenties and early thirties were filled with anxiety. Because I couldn’t stop and think about what it meant to spend a lifetime getting shit done. Or how it felt to always be the go-to girl for taking care of business. I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the moment, because there was always, always survival to attend to.

So maybe it’s for the best that my quest for my next adventure is stalled, in a failure of imagination. Maybe after spending a life of audacious dreaming, it’s okay if I can’t figure out what imaginary house I’d buy, if I could buy an imaginary house. Because I have a house. It’s a lovely rental house, and it’s exactly the house I always dreamed of. I get to slow down in the mornings on walks with my kid, knowing that the business I built will be there when I get to work. I’m finally starting to own the fact that I’m a mom, but I don’t dress like the moms on TV—and I don’t have to. I’m getting a chance to define myself by the moments of being, instead of as the girl who can do. I get to be less of a shell of myself, and more of a whole person. My adventure is right here, and the audacious dreams will be waiting for me when I’m ready.

This month, we’re talking about adventure. And while you might think that means I’ve spent my weeks reading submissions about trips to far off lands and what you found there, I haven’t… really. Because while I’ve read about post-marriage moves to Italy, it turns out that what you found there was the ability to slow down and stir risotto, not just an exotic destination. This month we’ll read about nervous breakdowns, and what you find when you adventure to the bottom. We’ll talk about what happens when you get close to thirty and realize that you’re not, in fact, going to be Beyoncé. And about adventuring every exhausted day with a baby. Plus, thanks to Blurb, Maddie was able to capture a day in my life in pictures, and I’m hoping that allows me to better see (and hold onto for the future) the adventure in my everyday.

Our culture sells marriage as the end of adventure. And while that’s wrong (we can be married and travel around the world), perhaps that’s because we discount the greatest adventure of all—diving into ourselves, and living in this very moment.

This August, I hope you get away from your desk for some small adventure. Maybe that’s renting your first travel trailer for a camping adventure (us!), or maybe that’s just sitting down for a dinner with people you love outside. Here is to adventures great and small, and to sharing what we learned with each other.

xo
Meg

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • Julia C

    I loved this article, it was amazing! I have achieved my dreams which I am very proud of, however it has left me with a huge hole on my life and I don’t know what to do with it. This is an issue I did not foresee at all! I find myself frequently worrying about what is next to come because my structured life plan with a goal at the end is gone. It’s time to do a lot of thinking I suppose. Looking forward to the upcoming articles this month!

  • Emma Klues

    Yes.

  • http://www.hellosamgoodbyesamantha.com Hello Sam, Goodbye Samantha

    What a gorgeous post Meg. I am recently engaged and pleasantly surprised that I am more excited about my future marriage than my wedding! I can’t wait to start my next adventure :)

  • Bets

    This is beautiful, inspiring and grounded all at once.

  • Erin

    Meg, it’s a beautiful gift you give us readers the way you open up your life. You hit on so many points in this essay that deeply resonate. You’re a powerhouse and an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your courage.

  • Lawyerette510

    Thank you for articulating this paradox of having crossed the big things you’ve been striving towards and battling for but being content to not put another big thing on the list at this moment. This Saturday was my birthday (31) and 30 was a year that a lot of things were checked off the list. And really from the first day of 30 it was go-go-go starting with a big party I threw myself last August, a new job that checked all the job-related boxes in October, being able to save more money than just my 401k contribution starting in November, being totally surprised by Dave’s proposal in December, finding the perfect venue in February, getting married in May, and big work accomplishments in July (plus an exceptional amount of travel for work and pleasure peppere throughout). But this weekend when I sat down to make my annual list of what I want to accomplish in this next year, it’s a much gentler list and I had conflicted feelings about that.

    • Meg Keene

      #1: Take a lot of naps.

      • Lawyerette510

        #2 Receive a professional massage at least once a quarter.

        • Meg Keene

          Once a quarter sounds not nearly ambitious enough. Maybe once a month would make you feel like you were really getting somewhere… cough.

          • Lauren from NH

            I need to get back to Thailand. There massages are 5-6 USD. Also it’s part of the culture to get massages and do self care regularly. It was heaven!

    • Amy March

      Year 30 was like that for me too. And then weeks before my 31st, the man who told me he would marry me ( ring shopping and all) broke up with me by returning my stuff in a box. So I guess my “adventure” for 31 is figuring out how to try again? I was so ready to be done with striving for awhile.

      • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

        That seems like a big adventure! Coming from the other side of it when I was 31 (a few years ago)… You will be ok. You will be stronger. This is an opportunity to reconnect with your awesome self <3

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

        I wish you a 31st year full of good surprises, better than you can even imagine. (And I also understand the being done with striving and then suddenly finding myself back a few steps on my own timeline, by no choice of my own.) I have been working on reframing it as an open horizon and a new start. May not have wanted it…but I can only control my reaction to what life hands me. Good luck on 31.

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    love what you write about being and doing. i can really relate to the constant anxious churning of feeling the pressure to do, do, do. just recently am I feeling accomplished in my “being”. it’s so much more valuable to me now. AND i’m learning that in order to do the things i dream of doing, i need to come from a fulfilled state of “being”. i don’t have to do in order to be, but i do need to be in order to really do what i want to do.

    • Lauren from NH

      Yes. I like to think of it as raising the quality of our everyday adventures. Giving some new attention to our sex life, finding the mental quiet to enjoy reading again, and getting better at setting aside the anxieties of life to become lost in laughter for night on the couch with popcorn and maybe late night pancakes watching our new favorite show. These things aren’t particularly glamorous and they probably wouldn’t earn me/us much Facebook jealously, but to me that is not the point. Our love itself is an adventure of building and living our marriage and cultivating the magical space between us that feels like home.

  • SarahG

    Meg, tell me you are renting a Teardrop trailer so I can live out my adventures vicariously through you :) I have ALWAYS wanted to do that (“always” in this case being “since Sunset magazine ran a story on them last year”)!

    Also, FWIW, I think your approach to rent/buy is really smart. The Bay Area is its own unique mess and it is extremely frustrating and can lead to lots of frantic “must buy” feelings. The decision to buy is one I often question — in order to afford our place we rent out the top half, and do all the renovation work (which is a lot) ourselves. I don’t regret it, but I do question my obsessive focus on buying… why did I think it was going to solve all my problems? I think, in all honesty, I let the local collective obsession with overpriced real estate make me think “must buy now or we’re screwed!”. And I am just not that sure that’s actually true. So, you keep doing you :)

    • Meg Keene

      HA! We (of course) thought about it. But guess what? A regular ugly trailer is about a zillion times more practical. And once you get part the photo op part, and start thinking about eating dinner and putting the baby to bed…

      • SarahG

        Yeah, fair enough :)

      • Lawyerette510

        I work between the BART in San Leandro and the camper rental place in San Leandro, and during summer I regularly see families walking from BART to the camper location and it just makes my day. Usually, there’s the excited kid(s) leading the way with their backpacks, one parent pushing a kid a stroller, and another parent a little further behind pulling a suitcase or two and encouraging the reluctant kid(s). Every time the whole scene makes me smile.

        • Meg Keene

          Awwww. For sure. I told the twenty month old we were going to stay in a house on wheels and I swear to god he said, “OOOOOoooooo!” And his understanding of English is still shaky.

    • Meg Keene

      I’m able to be as rational as I am about renting/ buying (not unemotional, not unannoyed, but rational) because my job during the financial crisis was to write research about the housing market (and even do on the ground research. I used to have to take day trips to tour and photograph foreclosed neighborhoods for investor newsletters). I have a really deep understanding that you DON’T buy when the pressure is BUY BUY BUY, that’s when you hold. (In real estate and the stock market.) And I’m pretty good at being contrarian (naturally, ha!). But JESUS is it hard. And we’re going to have to stay strong for awhile longer too, I think.

      That said, we have talked about how the only logical way to do it in this market is have an income property. The rental market is so overheated that you can get a crazy high rent too. That’s just… very capital intensive. As I’m sure you think about every day ;)

      • SarahG

        Totally agree. We went into it looking for a duplex, knowing it was the only way we could afford a mortgage. And being a landlord is not without its… drawbacks. Although we really lucked out with our tenant. The problem with a duplex is you need a bigger deposit, as you know. It took us a long time (and 5 lost bids) and sacrificing our biggest requirement (proximity to BART)… Anyway. I admire you for your restraint and practice of the fine art of Patience. It will pay off.

        • Meg Keene

          God I hope so. Though in the end, we’ll just leave the Bay Area if prices never come down. That’s what keeps me going. There are things I just won’t pay (especially in Oakland, where we barely have a functional police force for the love of God, and it’s the only place you’re not looking at a million). And if the Bay Area ends up driving out any semblance of the middle class, welp, so it goes.

  • http://www.rachellerawlingsphotography.com/ Rachelle

    Adventure!! So excited to read the stories this month.

  • Shara M. Brofman, Psy.D.

    As a wise supervisor of mine once said, “Don’t be afraid to take the risk of staying put.”

    • Meg Keene

      That is so smart. Also, I’m trying to learn that staying put NOW doesn’t mean resigning yourself to staying put forever. Sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses. It doesn’t mean you’ll never walk anywhere again.

      • Lauren

        Oh man. I need to learn that, too. I have an amazing dream to live in Europe somewhere and get to travel more easily to all the other countries there and I just wish it could happen NOW. But right now, settling for a little bit is better and more sensible and I have to remember that I’m 23 and I can live abroad married and/or with kid(s), not only as a single or newly married person.

  • http://www.mathildalazelle.com Mathilda LaZelle

    This post could not have come at a better moment (as is often the case). It is so important to embrace where you are RIGHT NOW and live the adventure of today.
    I’m only at the beginning of my Big Checklist and it’s easy to be swept up in running toward (and stressing about) the future, which leaves me unappreciative of all I am right now.

    Yesterday, I made a big revision to that Checklist. This change was inspired by the epic and mundane honesty that you (Meg, APW and my fellow commenters) share with such raw beauty.

    I often feel paralyzed by perfectionism, fear of failure and some Big Bad Fine Art Shoulds. I have to let go of this, give myself permission to be real, imperfect and disliked. If I don’t embrace myself as I am today, I will not grow.
    It’s not easy – I’ll be making baby steps towards this my whole life and I’m ok with that. Sharing and being imperfect on APW (rather than following along silently) seemed like a good place to start. :)

    • Meg Keene

      Fail often. I firmly believe that’s the only way to get anywhere.

      • http://www.mathildalazelle.com Mathilda LaZelle

        It IS the only way -
        It seems like taking risks and being bold enough to fail could become fun with enough practice.. I’m working on it!

  • Victwa

    There is a great Dirtbag Diaries podcast episode from a couple of years ago about a couple who used to do Big Adventures In Exotic Locales all the time. As in, they saved money to go on Big Adventures all the time, and all their vacations were far away with instagram-able pictures. And then they decided to spend a year exploring, quite literally, their backyard, and found out that actually, there were many adventures to be had just nearby. Our family is not in a place financially to do many Big Adventures According to The Judging World, but we do live near the East Bay Regional Park system, to say nothing of Marin and/or Mt Diablo or about a billion other places– and that’s just the adventuring in the natural world that is available to us. The amazing and wonderful thing about having a two year old is that EVERYTHING has the possibility to be an adventure (Bugs! Rocks! Leaves! Doggies!) and it has really helped me remember the definition(s) of adventure, as from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary: “1a) an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks” (um, parenting is pretty much one big unknown risk) 1b) “the encountering of risks” (again, see Parenting, or Life) “2) an exciting or remarkable experience” (welp, I fully believe LIFE can be an exciting or remarkable experience, if you are open to seeing the world as such.) The only definition of adventure I am not embracing at the moment is “3) an enterprise involving financial risk.” For the rest of them, though, there’s no scoreboard in the sky on how my adventures “should” look. Even if it’s not a FB-status-worthy update or photo that people could be jealous of.

    • Meg Keene

      We’re definitely having ALL the adventures within a nap time length drive right now. They usually DO have instagram-able pictures (the Bay Area is pretty), but I’m usually too busy having fun to bother. Perfect.

    • Sara P

      I’m commenting just to say: Yay Dirtbag Diaries / APW overlap! Do you remember the name of the episode? Sounds like a good listen :). We’re also doing a lot more local exploring these days – turns out there’s a lot to see.

      • Victwa

        I don’t, unfortunately. I do remember that they were from New Hampshire, I think– either that or Vermont, but I think it’s New Hampshire. Actually, I think it morphed into a story about a dam in Chile.

  • MDBethann

    My DH is a bit better about it than me, but since we’ve been together, and particularly since our marriage, whenever something isn’t going quite the way it is supposed to or we are facing some sort of challenge, my husband smiles and says “It’s an adventure!!” Like this year… in January, we started the planning process for an addition to our home. Then we found out we’re pregnant. Then we decided to install geothermal ac/heat instead of conventional, which meant going without a/c for a week in July (thank goodness it was in the low 80s that week!). Each has been it’s own tiny adventure adding up to one big experience (note to self: save any future internal renovations for when I’m NOT pregnant or planning to get pregnant). Maybe others wouldn’t see it as adventure, but to us, life is the adventure – we make decisions and then see what the outcome will be. Heck, I feel that in November/December when the baby arrives, we’ll be embarking on a lifelong adventure – raising and nurturing another human being. Do we still plan to travel and other such “traditional” adventures? Yes, but goals, adventures, etc. are whatever we make them out to be, and sometimes looking at anything new/different/challenging as an adventure can help minimize the scariness and frustration (at least for me).

  • Elle

    Take heart: once interest rates climb back up, bay area real estate will no longer be the investment option with the highest return! The bubble should pop in the next couple years (I hope. I hope so hard.) In the meantime, I hope your downtime leads you to greater clarity in pursuing your next big adventure. If you’ve been pushing your whole life, standing still can be excruciating, but startlingly necessary. Best of luck to you!

  • laurasmash

    I’m feeling haunted (and terrified!) by the “what’s next” question. Not feeling very satisfied at my well-paying job, and feeling like my skill set is so niche I won’t find another job (so much impostor syndrome). Fiance and I dream of owning our own business but have never been able to nail down exactly what that business will be (something design-related, we both have degrees in architecture but not licenses), not to mention that we are both introverts with lots of social anxiety and can’t imagine how we would promote aforementioned business. All I know is I’m ready for the next thing, but can’t figure out what it is and am afraid to make the leap.

  • http://peckishadventurer.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    My latest and greatest adventure is trying to find new friends in a new city! I feel like the older I get, the more difficult it becomes to meet people who are interesting and outgoing. We all get so busy with family and jobs and keeping up with the friends we already have, it’s hard coming to a new town and not knowing anyone. I’ve been pretty aggressively climbing the ladder for some time, so it’s nice to consciously make time for new friends and new adventures!

  • http://colormegreenanew.blogspot.com/ Julia (Color Me Green)

    “some days feel cheated that, when that goal finally should seem attainable, the market in the Bay Area has spun so out of control that the smart money isn’t on buying a house”

    yes, this is exactly how about buying in nyc. after years of crappy landlords, i am tired of it and want control over where and how i live. but despite my husband and i feeling financially well off and like we should be able to buy, it’s still an impossible dream in nyc. pouty face.

    • Amanda

      Ditto for DC area. And I don’t even want to buy in DC itself, I’d be fine with Northern VA near a metro stop.

      • Lauren from NH

        DC, sigh…

  • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

    Love, love, love this post.